Housing the Homeless

Middle school
Subject: Civics
Time: One class period for initial exercise, one period for followup
Preparation: Have class view "PEN" (Tape 1, Information, Act 5, 1:24:46)

Divide the class into small groups around a table and present this puzzle:
  • stack of old newspapers
  • plastic bag full of aluminum cans
  • scraps of food
  • food wrappers
  • old sweater

Ask the groups to confer for a few minutes and decide what these items represent. Answer: a survival kit for homeless people.

Have students list the items that they need every day. Make sure that they pay close attention to everything that they use from the minute they get up in the morning until they go to bed. Compare and contrast their lists with the items on the table and ask if they could live with only these things.

Ask students if there are homeless people in their neighborhood and assign a research project on the topic of homelessness. Direct students to local newspapers for photos or articles on the subject. Conduct a general discussion on what the class learned and what students' sources were.

Role-play the issue

Tell students that the city council has decided to use the empty building down the block from their school to feed and house the homeless.

Divide the class into small groups to discuss the pros and cons of this decision. It's the students' job to list the costs and benefits of having a shelter in their neighborhood and to decide whether the city council made the right decision.

If the students decide against the shelter, they must offer an alternative location and justify that action. Chart the votes to see what information students used to reach their conclusion.

Ask the class to write a letter expressing their views on the subject to a newspaper editor, city council member, or neighbor.

Karen Tryda
Cleveland Public Schools
Cleveland, Ohio

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